Blood Wedding

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

09/05/2009 - 06/06/2009

Production Details

Love. Lust. Betrayal. Blood Wedding is coming.

Your wedding is supposed to be the biggest day of your life – but when your wedding includes a duel to the death you know the stakes are high.

Blood Wedding, written by celebrated Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, is one of the most anticipated productions of the 2009 Wellington theatrical calendar. Blood Wedding premieres for the first time ever on the professional stage in New Zealand, May 9 at Circa Theatre, Wellington.

Blood Wedding is no ordinary love story; it is a fiery challenge to our senses of duty, honour and desire. In the searing heat of the Spanish summer and set against the turbulent background of the era of the Spanish Civil War, a Bride prepares for her wedding. A wedding to unite a village destroyed by bitter infighting and man’s desire to settle arguments with the knife. The return of her first love Leonardo forces the Bride to choose between her duty and the will of her heart. Their decision to escape on her wedding day sends shockwaves through the community and precipitates an inevitable and bloody act of vengeance.

Award-winning director Willem Wassenaar (Angels in America, The Little Dog Laughed) helms a star-studded cast in his eagerly-awaited return to Circa Theatre, having directed The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. With one of the best ensemble line-ups to share a stage in Wellington this year, the cast features fresh out of Dancing with the Stars Geraldine Brophy (Second Hand Wedding, Outrageous Fortune and Shortland Street‘s beloved Moira), Rachel Forman (Apollo 13: Mission Control, Turbine, Blackbird) and Dean O’Gorman (Toy Love, Shortland Street, Hercules). Rounding out the cast are Sophie Roberts, Peter Hambleton, Jade Daniels, Michele Amas and Carmel McGlone.

Be invited to witness the wedding as Circa One is transformed by Andrew Foster into the dusty shimmer of a Spanish village square. It assures the audience of a unique and festive experience in which they become part of the electrifying climax.

The high-calibre production line-up also includes one of New Zealand’s greatest contemporary composers Gareth Farr promising a score of lavish Spanish song and dance, with choreography from Dancing with the Stars’ Stefano Olivieri.

Blood Wedding: It could be the start of a great new life – or the end of one.

Blood Wedding
Circa One  
May 9 – June 6
Tickets: Adults $38, under-25 $20, over-65 $30, groups of six or more $32ea
To book: Phone Circa 04 801 7992 or book online at


Rachel Forman - Bride
Geraldine Brophy - Mother
Dean O'Gorman - Leonardo
Jade Daniels - Groom

Michele Amas - Neighbour and Servant
Peter Hambleton - Bride's father
Carmel McGlone - Mother in Law, Death
Sophie Roberts - Leonardo's wife, Moon

Tai Berdinner Blades - Girl, Woodcutter
Ben Crawford - Young Man, Woodcutter
Joe Dekkers-Reihana - Young Man
Anna Harcourt - Girl, Woodcutter

Composer: Gareth Farr
Set and Costume Designer: Andrew Foster
Lighting design: Natala Gwiazdzinski
Sound design, lighting operator: Thomas Press
Stage Manager: Pat McIntosh
Costume assistance/construction: Rebekah Coburn

Dramaturg: Jaime Dorner
Choreographer and movement advisor: Stefano Olivieri
Publicity: Phil Reed
Photography: Philip Merry and Andrew Kennedy

1hr 30 mins, no interval

Captivating yet distancing

Review by Lynn Freeman 25th May 2009

A Wassenaar production is always an occasion.  While most New Zealand theatre is firmly rooted in the naturalistic, his style is heightened, loud and colourful, the stuff of raw emotions powerfully expressed.

Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca’s work is a neat fit with the Wassenaar approach to theatre.  Add to it a translation by poet Ted Hughes and music by Gareth Farr so powerful it drives the performance, and you have a heady mix. It’s a mix though that won’t be to everyone’s taste. 

Lorca’s story of a Bride forced to choose between duty and her first love, is a metaphor for human beings’ propensity for war.  The Bride runs off with Leonardo and that sets off a bloody turn of events, tied in with vengeance and infighting, grief and hatred. 

While Lorca has been described as Spain’s Shakespeare, this is far more of a Greek tragedy, complete with chorus, bloody deaths and bitter lamentations.

The vividly described passions tend to be talked about in terms of the elements: the Bride is a ‘woman on fire’, a ‘whole family of smiles wrapped around daggers" and events are fuelled by fecundity – ‘it’s the fault of the earth’ as emotions spiral out of control.  Yet you feel distanced from it all as a member of the audience, admiring the text and performances but seldom responding emotionally to all this emotion on stage.

It’s intense but also often laugh out loud funny. And all of the cast throw themselves utterly into their performances, often literally.  Geraldine Brophy as the grief ridden widow and Mother of the groom is captivating, and Rachel Forman as the Bride is a mass of conflicting emotions and passions. 

One of the most memorable scenes is between her and Leonardo (Dean O’Gorman) as they give in to their love, but they need to show a lot more chemistry in their earlier meeting for this not to come as such a surprise.

Peter Hambleton is excellent as the Bride’s blustering father while Michele Amas shows her versatility in her roles.  Carmel McGlone also doubles up, as actor and singer and a very disconcerting Death this former Lady Macbeth makes.
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A strangely objective experience

Review by John Smythe 11th May 2009

It seems a long time since Circa offered a raw, highly-charged, non-naturalistic, theatre experience which allows actors to express the human condition in the highly emotive and sometimes poetic terms usually reserved for grand opera.* As such, this Willem Wassenaar-directed production of the Ted Hughes translation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding brings a welcome blast of fresh energy to Circa.

Apparently it was a 1928 article in a Spanish newspaper, Heraldo de Madrid, that provoked Lorca’s writing of Blood Wedding. On the eve of her wedding, a bride-to-be eloped with her more attractive cousin; the groom-to-be’s brother waylaid them and shot the cousin.

The story Lorca worked up from this is set against a background of bitter feuding that years ago robbed the prospective groom of his father and brother; his mother of her husband and first son. They were killed by older family members of the only named character in the drama: Leonardo Felix, the prospective bride’s first love.

Love and romance are not what drives this wedding. The bride’s family land needs "good strong hands that cost nothing" – i.e. adult sons to do the work – so this is an expedient investment in the families’ economic futures. And the bride and groom are both committed to doing their duties in the belief that love will grow. But when Leonardo – now unhappily married to the bride-to-be’s cousin with one child and another on the way – hears of the imminent wedding, passions arise that will not be quelled.

It is after the wedding that Leonardo and the bride abscond from the party on his horse, so both are would-be adulterers, which matters in this deeply Catholic community. Both men end up dead, killed by the one small knife that the groom’s mother uses in the first scene to cut citrus fruit. The bride returns seeking punishment, her dress drenched in the blood of both her husband and … lover? She swears she is still a virgin. It is family honour that has been lost.

Some commentators believe the original play implies the daughter is later killed in a sacrifice to restore the family’s honour. Others, including Hughes, go with the idea that the groom’s mother allows the girl to live because doing so with both deaths on her conscience will be the most effective punishment, and the violence has got to stop somewhere. 

As far our own news stories go, there are all to many recent examples of violence that leads to more violence, at domestic, community, tribal, national and international levels, so Blood Wedding is clearly a relevant classic to bring to the stage right now.

That said, I found watching this production a strangely objective experience, as did everyone I have spoken to since: those who had anticipated a cathartic emotional experience – given the "love, lust, betrayal" publicity pitch – felt left high and dry, despite performances often drenched in emotion. I can only assume some kind of ‘alienation effect’ is intended, whereby we are being invited to rationally contemplate the unfolding action and consider its implications.

Designer Andrew Foster strips Circa back to its black walls and partly paints them white; large black knotted curtains hang ominously at the edges, a random collection of wooden chairs are the only furniture.

The costumes, too, are mostly black and white. Leonardo’s Wife (Sophie Roberts), who doubles as Moon, is the only one clad only in white. The Bride (Rachel Foreman) wears black, which is not conducive to showing blood on her final return. Muted colour and pattern is apparent in the dress of the Groom’s widowed Mother (Geraldine Brophy), while Leonardo’s Mother-in-Law (Carmel McGlone), who doubles as Death, wears black.  

The cast of 12, including four recruited from Wassenaar’s Long Cloud Youth Theatre (part of the Wellington Performing Arts Centre), remain visible throughout and the acting area is largely defined by a circle of sand, dramatically created early on. Sometimes it is significant whether an ‘on’ character is inside or outside the circle.  

In an overt nod to Dancing With the Stars, Brophy sashays downstage to commence the first scene, with her son, a bucket of citrus fruit and the knife.  Portentously, the splatter of bitter juice that is spilt as she rails against all weapons capable of penetrating a human body remains on stage throughout the ensuing action. Yet surprisingly, while effectively manifesting her loss and the bond between herself and her only remaining son, the Groom (Jade Daniels), Brophy also plays the odd line for laughs – validated by a line later on, I assume: "Do I seem crazy? I am crazy! – rolling her eyes and flashing knowing looks at the audience.

Such contact with the audience happens erratically with a couple of the characters, adding to the alienation effect, but on opening night it did not feel fully integrated or utilised as a convention.

Where doubling occurs, without any change in costume (apart from the pregnant Wife’s small bump) we have to have studied the programme and prepared ourselves for the role-changes involving some actors. It is logically obvious when Michele Amas changes from the Groom’s Mother’s neighbour to the Bride’s servant. But because Leonardo’s Wife and his Mother in Law first appear singing a lullaby to the baby – splendidly, in Spanish – it takes me a while to realise Roberts and McGlone’s later singing, of Gareth Farr’s richly evocative original score, is in their roles as Moon and Death.

The dysfunction in Leonardo’s household is palpable. Dean O’Gorman plays Leonardo’s frustrations and anger for real and Roberts and McGlone are on the ‘same page’ in their responses, offering a rare opportunity for three-way empathy.

Forman’s Bride also remains emotionally centred and true throughout, compelling our empathy as she does her duty despite the return of Leonardo and her unwelcome but compulsive attraction to him.

As the Bride’s Father, Peter Hambleton is big, expansive and also given to bits of audience interaction. His overbearing assertion that the land has to be thrashed into submission is very clear. But because it is prejudged and signalled as a wrong attitude, we are denied the opportunity to engage with and question this attitude.

So much is so laid out and overt, I find myself wondering what’s in it for the audience; what do we get to discover, enquire into, engage and wrestle with …? Technically we have to adjust to the switches from non-naturalistic realism to the abstract commentary of Death and the Moon, and the Greek Chorus-like commentary of the two Girls (Tai Berninner Blades & Anna Harcourt) and Young Men (Ben Crawford & Joe Dekkers-Reihana), who have suddenly become woodcutters, the programme suggests, although there is no change of costume to say so.

When at last the Bride and Leonardo are alone together, the opportunity to see who they really are in all their emotional confusion and to fully engage with what is going on for them is subverted – or it was on opening night, at least – by too much resorting to shouting. Surely a more varied range is required here.

The ‘duel’ happens off stage and is marked, we realise in retrospect, with a sudden redness on a high wall. The bride returns, we are told both men are dead and for a while we are left wanting to know how: what exactly happened? This hunger to know is a welcome change from feeling spoon fed.

Likewise the final scene draws us in as the question of the Bride’s fate is confronted. In a fascinating inversion, the draining of emotion from the bereft mother creates the space for us to really feel for her, while weighing up the questions of justice.

Along with Garth Farr’s music (necessarily pre-recorded so there was the odd balance issues still to be resolved), the stark lighting and powerful sound designs of Natala Gwiazdinski and Thomas Press respectively (who both earned diplomas in entertainment technology at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama Scool in 2005) add much to the overall production.

Having sat with it for a couple of days, I remain bemused that a play so driven by passions has been given the alienation treatment. Personally I feel if we were able to engage with the conflicting emotional content more empathetically, we would get the ‘message’ more effectively because we’d have seen, or rather felt, ourselves in the action. But then the poetic nature of the play probably limits the potential for that.
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*Not withstanding Troy, Monarchy & RomeThe Musicals, which were overtly comic explorations of serious themes.
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Passionate tragedy ‘pure gold’

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 11th May 2009

At last the stream of naturalistic plays at Circa One has been halted by an outstanding production of Ted Hughes’s translation of Blood Wedding, Lorca’s drama based on a newspaper story about an Andalusian bride who jilted her bridegroom on their wedding day for a former lover. Both men are subsequently killed.

Out of this sensational story Lorca fashioned a poetic drama that is anchored in the life of rural Spain early in the 20th century but slips easily from scenes of heightened realism to scenes in which the Moon aids the lovers to escape and Death guides the groom to exact revenge.

In the final scene three women are left to mourn; the bridegroom’s mother inconsolable, alone, stoically accepting her fate, and seeing her son’s grave as an earthen bed, a cradle to hide him in.

This drama is played out on a bare stage outlined by a large circle of sand with the twelve actors sitting or standing outside the circle when not involved in the action. Andrew Foster’s sparse, doom laden setting suggests the harshness, if not the colour, of the Andalusian landscape; while Gareth Farr’s powerful music emphasizes the passionate emotions and dramatic highlights of the story rather than anything that sounds Spanish, except for a song sung superbly by Carmel McGlone.

There are occasions when Willem Wassenaar’s production could be a little clearer, particularly in the transitions to the woodcutter scenes, but any production that has performances as good as those by Geraldine Brophy, Carmel McGlone and Rachel Forman as the bride is pure gold.

Geraldine Brophy is magnificent in the pivotal role of the bridegroom’s mother, moving from roguish comedy to hints of incestuous desire, to a sensuous speech about licking her hand drenched with the blood of her first dead son, and ending with a eulogy for her second son that transfixed the audience with its elemental passion and took us to the edge of tragedy.
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